I-Connect invites industrial companies to meet each other

E-Lounge spin-off focuses on matchmaking in the industrial sector

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 6, 2014

MADISON HEIGHTS — When the city of Madison Heights collaborated with Biggby Coffee on the Entrepreneur Lounge, or E-Lounge for short, the goal was to help aspiring entrepreneurs learn from each other. Now an offshoot of that concept is forming with a focus on the industrial and manufacturing companies in Madison Heights, helping them to learn about possible opportunities in town.

Industrial Connect, or I-Connect, invites the top decision-makers at various companies in Madison Heights to learn about how others operate. The city has a wide variety of businesses in automotive, medical, aerospace, engineering, high-tech and more. These companies are invited to take turns hosting the I-Connect meetings, which are held every other month.

Navistar Defense, one of the nation’s largest military contractors, will host the first meeting at its immense complex on East Whitcomb. The meeting will be from 1-2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24. Scot & Itoh is tentatively scheduled to host the second meeting in November. Generally, the meetings will take place the third or fourth week of the month.

The host company will always give a short, to-the-point tour of their facilities, and they’ll also provide cookies — an act of hospitality meant to keep the atmosphere light. There’s no pressure to strike up partnerships here; it’s merely a friendly way for businesses to get to know each other in a relaxing environment.

“It’s a low-stress, low-expectation way to do networking,” said Joe Ankley, president of Emerald Steel in Madison Heights, who helped conceive I-Connect together with Linda Williams, the city’s economic development coordinator. “Just having a tour of someone else’s facility, you can learn more in those five or 10 minutes than you could in a traditional networking environment where you’re trying to explain it.”

Several companies have already expressed interest in participating in I-Connect, including Ion Bond, a chemical coating company; Triple M Steel, a steel company; Shannon Precision, a manufacturer of nuts and bolts; Engineered Heat Treat, a heat-treating company; Jo-Ad Industry, a fabricating company; and Emerald Steel, Scot & Itoh and Navistar Defense.

The meetings at Navistar Defense and Scot & Itoh will round out I-Connect’s inaugural year. In 2015, the plan is to possibly expand I-Connect to include other companies from around the region.

The idea is for the Madison Heights-based businesses to get to know each other first, and then become connected to even more opportunities beyond the city borders.

“There are two parts to it,” Williams said. “One part is education, opening their eyes to their neighbors and the potential opportunities in their own backyard. The other part is matchmaking, rather than simply networking. We’re encouraging them to form meaningful and long-term relationships with other Madison Heights-based businesses. You may not do business together, in the end, but at least you’re aware they’re there.”